Amateur Axe-Maker

Geography professor Anthony Robinson loves building electric guitars from scratch.

five colorful electric guitars on stands in front of an amp with a color block wall behind them, courtesy Anthony Robinson


It was the perfect day, sunny and warm, to paint a guitar—a partscaster he’d built from scratch. Anthony Robinson was so absorbed in his work that he didn’t notice until it was too late that he’d knocked an entire bottle of purple leather dye all over his front porch.

“It looked like a crime scene of purple,” Robinson says. The dye was so tenacious he had to repaint his front porch—but the beautiful, saturated purple hue of his guitar was more than worth the effort.

Robinson ’05 MS, ’08 PhD EMS, an associate professor of geography who’s played the guitar since he was 11 years old, began building partscasters—custom guitars constructed from parts—10 years ago. It was an expensive hobby back then, he says, and it’s still “considerably more expensive to buy the parts and put together your own guitar than it is to just buy one.” But Robinson loves to work with his hands—he also makes fishing rods—and being a guitarist, it’s important to him to have an instrument that’s perfectly attuned to his needs.

“A lot of guitar players, after years of experience, start to figure out the recipe of what they would really like to try someday, which might be something very customized. I definitely gravitated toward that—and I obviously also like the experience of taking individual bits and synthesizing them into something new.”

Robinson has built around a dozen guitars—and he plays them all. Each one is painted and finished in different colors, which is the aspect of the craft that Robinson enjoys the most.

“I have some better practices, because you learn. One of the things that’s most satisfying about it is [learning] from all the mistakes—including ruining your house.”


Watch and listen below as Robinson plays one of his custom guitars: